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Serva Energy Discovers 'Highly Promising' New Way to Produce Cancer-killing Ac-225 Isotope

NEWS RELEASE June 22, 2023

Tempe, AZ — Serva Energy, a nuclear innovation company, has developed a new production method to ramp up the supply of Actinium-225, a cancer-killing isotope in ultra-high demand by oncology researchers and pharmaceutical companies developing Targeted Alpha Therapies (TAT)—a promising step forward in the fight against cancer.

The milestone marks the first time a commercial entity has employed a conventional nuclear reactor to produce the life-saving TAT isotope—allowing for dozens of existing research reactors around the world to collaborate with Serva on increasing production of Actinium-225 without huge capital investments or delays for construction.

“Serva’s production method is highly promising and has significant potential to make commercial quantities of Actinium-225 suitable for radiopharmaceutical use,” said Dr. Ian Horn, Senior Associate Consultant at the Mayo Clinic Rochester.

'The more Actinium we can produce, the more lives we can save'

“Targeted Alpha Therapies are the next generation of therapeutic radiopharmaceutical products," said Dr. Horn, who specializes in Radiochemistry and Radiopharmaceuticals in the Mayo Clinic Departments of Nuclear Medicine and Radiology. "To facilitate the development and use of these novel treatments, it is critical that the supply chain of alpha emitting isotopes, such as Actinium-225, be improved to support multiple commercial applications."

Only trivial quantities of Actinium are available via national laboratories and other suppliers—severely limiting the development of this highly effective approach to cancer treatment.

Serva has engineered a novel reactor-based approach to creating significantly greater quantities of research-grade Actinium-225, free of problematic contaminants like Actinium-227—a frequent co-product of other methods.

“What’s really exciting about this innovation is the potential to save lives,” said Ian Horvath, founder and CEO of Serva Energy. “Actinium-225 is the miracle isotope that can open the doors to the cancer treatments we’ve been wishing for. The more Actinium we can produce, the more lives we can save.”

CT scan of human body before and after Actinium-225
“What’s really exciting about this innovation is the potential to save lives,” said Ian Horvath, founder and CEO of Serva Energy. Photo: Deanna Dent

Transforming Radium-226 into the life-saving drugs of tomorrow

When coupled to special antibodies that target and selectively bind to cancer cells in vivo, Actinium-225 delivers an extremely localized therapeutic dose of alpha radiation to cancer cells with little to no harm to nearby healthy tissue.

With support from the U.S. Department of Energy Isotope Program, which provided the Radium-226 seed material, Serva’s proprietary materials and process technology produced several initial batches of Actinium-225 that have been validated by Dr. Horn of Mayo Clinic.

Considered waste and highly restricted, Radium-226 has the potential to be transformed into the life-saving drugs of tomorrow, says Horvath, who sees nuclear waste less as a problem to be managed and more of an asset to be harnessed.

Man writing on white board
Only trivial quantities of Actinium are available—severely limiting the development of this highly effective approach to cancer treatment.

Critical isotopes needed for new era of cancer treatments

Driven by a growing awareness of an acute demand for medical isotopes and the enormous life-saving potential of Actinium-225, Serva began engaging with researchers from the Mayo Clinic in early 2022 as part of the spring cohort of The MedTech Accelerator, a flagship program of the Mayo Clinic and ASU Alliance for Health Care.

“While Actinium-225 is our priority as one of the most in-demand isotopes, we can apply our technology to develop a number of medically relevant isotopes, allowing us to grow with the developing field of nuclear medicine,” said Dr. Sarah Jones, Vice President of Serva Medical.

Serva’s ability to iterate rapidly, leading to the Actinium-225 breakthrough, was made possible by the company’s engagement with nuclear facilities and chemistry laboratories at the University of California-Irvine (UCI) and Arizona State University (ASU).

"Innovations like this are possible at Serva because of the best-in-class technology we’ve been able to leverage through our innovative partners at UCI, ASU, and Mayo Clinic,” said Dr. Jones. “We’ve been so fortunate to be part of such a thriving research community that supports our rapid progress. Through these and other partnerships, we can move quickly to begin supplying research-grade Actinium-225, establish GMP production, and submit a Drug Master File.”

People working in a science lab.
Strategic partnerships have been the key to Serva's success with the isotope innovation.

Strategic partnerships for rapid innovation

Dr. Sarah Finkeldei, a professor in the Department of of Chemistry at UCI, has been involved in the research activities related to medical isotope generation over the last year.

“It’s been truly rewarding to utilize UCI’s TRIGA research reactor and our nuclear chemistry laboratories to contribute to such an important application of nuclear materials,” said Dr. Finkeldei. “It’s particularly exciting for our undergraduate students to participate in these research activities and get trained on materials that are critical to radiation therapy and public health.”

The Department of Energy estimates that to support basic research needs for new cancer treatments would require a global supply of Actinium-225 that is equal to 50 Curies per year—more than 25 times what is currently available—with significantly larger needs for the greater patient population. Its current supply of 1.7 Curies, equivalent to a grain of sand, can treat fewer than 2,000 patients annually, accounting for just 0.01% of the 20 million people who receive a cancer diagnosis each year.

After 100 years of using radiation externally to treat cancer, radiation oncology is undergoing a revolution through using precision treatments that target and destroy specific cancer cells. Rather than bombarding the body with external radiation, damaging healthy cells, TAT cancer treatments can now selectively direct radiation—acting as a kind of tracking device to seek out and destroy cancer cells exclusively.

With almost 10 million deaths each year, cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally.

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Britt Lewis Communications | Serva Energy (480) 704-3866

Serva Energy is a nuclear technology company revolutionizing the way radioisotopes and nuclear fuels are produced—serving the world critical cancer treatments and a safe carbon-free transition to a clean energy future. Serva fuel technologies aim to transform the state of nuclear power within this decade, making reactors safer and more efficient, while advancing the supply of radioisotopes for health care applications and biomedical research.

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education, and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing.

The MedTech Accelerator is supported by The Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care. The alliance is developing comprehensive improvements in the science of health care delivery and practice, all toward one goal: continually advancing patient care. Together, the recognized world leader in patient care, education and research, and the nation’s No. 1-ranked university for innovation are combining expertise from every corner of health care—doctors to bioengineers to business experts—for an adaptive approach to preparing the next generation of health care pioneers and practitioners in our communities.

Founded in 1965, the University of California—Irvine is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research and innovation, with Peter the Anteater as their mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 37,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide.

Arizona State University, ranked the No. 1 “Most Innovative School” in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for eight years in succession, has forged the model for a New American University by operating on the principles that learning is a personal and original journey for each student; that they thrive on experience and that the process of discovery cannot be bound by traditional academic disciplines. Through innovation and a commitment to accessibility, ASU has drawn pioneering researchers to its faculty even as it expands opportunities for qualified students.

The National Isotope Development Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Isotope Program. It serves as an interface with the user community and manages the coordination of isotope production across the program facilities at Argonne, Brookhaven, Idaho, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories. These facilities produce stable and radioactive isotopes in short supply using reactors, accelerators, and other methods.

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